Posted Sun Sep 13th by Monty
The game was over.
After being shut out for 54 minutes, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer led his team 91 yards down the field for a touchdown. After trailing the entire game, the Bengals were suddenly facing a sure-win, up one point with less than 40 seconds to go against a Denver Broncos offense that had stumbled all afternoon. No one on the Broncos offense had made a play.
Then, Brandon Stokley made a play.
In what will be remembered as perhaps the greatest opening day play in Broncos history, Bengals DB Leon Hall tipped an Orton throw intended for Brandon Marshall high into the air. Brandon Stokley, without a catch up to that point, just happened to be at the right place at the right time. The third-year Bronco took the tipped ball 87 yards untouched to the end zone, and the Broncos went on to win 12-7.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are left reeling, wondering how in the world they let this one get away. As the Associated Press puts it:
A half-hour after it ended, a fan in an orange Rey Maualuga jersey sat alone in the otherwise vacated section of green seats behind the very end zone, staring at the field, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
There was no explaining it.
The Immaculate Deflection didn’t just bail out the Broncos defense, who had been stiff against the Bengals offense all night before breaking in the fourth quarter. It didn’t just bail out Marshall, who had several dropped balls, including an early thirty-yard toss over the middle that might have gone for six. It bailed out Kyle Orton.
Orton had been shaky all afternoon. While the plethora of WR drops didn’t help, his biggest blunder happened just moments before Palmer started his would-have-been-game-winning drive. On third down in Cincinnati territory, Orton inexplicably took a sack and loss of seven yards, turning a makeable 54-yard field goal attempt into an impossible 61 (Matt Prater has yet to miss a kick in 2009 and was already good from both 48 and 50 yards).
No harm, no foul; Stokley’s catch wiped the goof away and added 87 yards and a TD to Orton’s stat line. The quarterback finished with a 100.7 passer rating; without Stokley’s grab, he finishes with a 75.7.
Sloppiness was the story of the game until that wild fourth quarter. Both teams’ offenses were plagued by drops, missed blocks and penalties.
The Broncos defense, however, showed what a difference an offseason makes. Brian Dawkins was everywhere, Darrell Reid followed-up his preseason interception with a big third down sack on Carson Palmer, and the boys tallied two interceptions.
Granted, one of them was a game-ender on a Hail Mary by Tony Scheffler (you read that right), but still, an interception is an interception.
The Broncos successfully defend the AFC’s best opening day record and look toward their home opener against the Cleveland Browns. The Bengals are left to regroup after one of the flukiest, luckiest, most incredible plays in recent memory.
And Josh McDaniels is 1-0.